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How to maintain fire and smoke in a smoker.

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I need your advice. I have a SFB smoker.

I know how to start a fire in the firebox using lump charcoal. My questions are:

1. How do I add additional lump? Should I start it first somewhere else and let it ash over and then add it, or should I just add it to the firebox cold? If I add it cold wont I get all the initial cr*p that burns off before it ashes over?

2. How much smoking wood should I put on? It seems like when I first put the smoking wood on the ashed over lump, I get a lot of billowing white smoke, not the thin blue smoke until it settles down.

3. How often should I add smoke wood? Should I have a constant TBS or is it OK to just be cooking some of the time without smoking?

4. How long should I be able to go on the initial fire before adding more lump?

Photo of smoker is below:

post #2 of 10
What kind of smoker do you have? That will make some difference to answers for me with a Chargriller Smokin Pro:

1. When reloading, i push all hot/burning lump to one side and then load the opposite side with new lump. Let the minion method take over. Lump doesnt give off as much bad stuff as briqs.

2. i mix a couple chunks in with my initial load of charcoal and then again when i refill. I also throw a chunk or 2 on when i dump in the first lit chimney and let them start burning as the smoker is coming up to temp. Then the smoke is done billowing when you put the meat on. In between i add a chunk here and there to keep the TBS flowing. To get away from the white smoke you can pre heat or pre burn your wood.

3. Answered first part above. You dont always have to see smoke. You are getting flavor as long as the wood coals are burning. You should still be able to smell the wood out of the exhaust even with no smoke.

4. I can go about 4 hours on a heaping load of lump in my basket starting with one half full chimney of lit lump. With NO WIND. Some smokers will go longer some not as long.
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
I posted a photo of my smoker above and here. It is a homemade SFB with very heavy gauge steel.

post #4 of 10
Oh yea, i saw your previous posts getting setup. Could your exhaust stack be too big? Though you have a large firebox if you dont have a big fire in it maybe its too much. Considering mine is only 3" in diameter though with a much smaller firebox. Thats my only thought...i dont know why that bad boy wont get hot!
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
I'm sorry, My post must have been confusing. I am not having any trouble with the pit, just wondering the best way to go about the above questions. Believe me, it gets as hot as I want with that big firebox! PDT_Armataz_01_42.gif
post #6 of 10
When I had my SFB smoker I prefered to add semi-lit chimneys of lump as the smoke went on. I would minion to start and about 5 minutes before the meat went on I would add 4 or 5 fist sized pieces of flavor wood. I would add additional wood every 45-60 minutes for the first 3 or 4 hrs. of a smoke (usually untill I was foiling).

After 2-3 hrs. I would fill and light a chimney of lump and let it get about 1/2 lit then add it to my smoker. I tried adding unlit lump to an already going fire, but didn't care for the start up flavor/smell (even with lump).

As for the white smoke when adding wood. If you are just adding 3 or 4 fist sized pieces of flavor wood, I wouldn't worry to much about pre-burning them. They will only smolder for a minute or so till they ignite, then settle down to thin blue. But if you are adding whole splits (big fireplace sized wood), then I would pre-burn it.

As for how long you get out of each load of lump.... that varies a lot with wind, temp., type of smoker, humidity in air, phase of moon, number of times you exhale, ect. ect. ect... lol. biggrin.gif With my old SFB Chargriller I could get 2-3 hrs. on average, but with my WSM I can got 9+ hrs. on my initial load.
post #7 of 10
I know what you mean, I have the same trouble/questions. When I start, I use the minion method and my temp holds fairly steady for about an 1.5 hours. Then I start adding lit lump about every 30-45 min. Pre-heating the wood splits/chunks does seem to help with the whitish smoke when added. Some one suggested that they will jam the wood split between the charcoal basket and wall near the opening to the smoke chamber. That way you're not adding it directly on the coals. It will last longer and only give off a little smoke at a time. They will place their next split/chunks on the opposite side of the firebox so that it will get warmer but not hot enough to give off smoke. It will then be ready to when needed.
I have Yoder 20" offset smoker. The 2 days I've smoked it was windy. I assume that is why I've been using more lump and wood for the length of the smokes than I thought I should be using. I'm hoping I'm right.
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
I appreciate the feedback guys. I am thinking about trying the burn barrel method as well so I am cooking and smoking with the same wood. Any comments on this method?
post #9 of 10
I use this method with my Horizon.
post #10 of 10
Hey torch, I haven't used any lump or charcoal in 1.5 years and I smoke every weekend. I use 100% wood all the time. BTW, you should cover your wood pile to keep it dry.

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